Industry Desk: Many experts, political and economic observers fear that business, economic and visa restrictions are coming very shortly on Bangladesh. The so-called democracy, open threat to kill the foreign diplomats, frequent violation of human rights, repression of opposition party activists, ignoring the fair right of labourer’s, reckless corruption, economic failure, frazil law and order situation, using police forces against the basic demand of general mass are the main reason behind the fear of embargo.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has already warned that the US will impose visa bans, trade sanctions and economic embargo against countries that violate labor rights.
United States President Joe Biden issued a new memorandum last Thursday local time on the rights of workers worldwide and improving their standards. In light of that, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken gave this warning on Friday.
US President Joe Biden signed a memorandum for the first time on November 16 with a commitment to work on workers’ rights worldwide.
The White House described the matter as a historic step.
After the signing of the memorandum, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken detailed it in front of labor leaders in a hotel in San Francisco.
Regarding the US plan to ensure the rights of workers, the US Secretary of State said that sanctions, trade embargoes and visa bans will be imposed against those who threaten, intimidate and attack labor union leaders, labor rights activists and labor organizations. At that time, Blinken cited the example of Bangladeshi garment workers’ rights activist Kalpana Akhtar and said, ‘We want to stand by people like Kalpana Akhtar, who says that she is still alive. Because the American Embassy worked for him.
He said labor rights are key to America’s national security and foreign policy.
It is not only an internal matter of the country. It is a matter of our national security and foreign policy. He said the United States will work with governments, workers and labor organizations, the private sector and civil society to ensure international standards of labor rights. Blinken said our ambassadors and embassies around the world will work with workers and trade unions to ensure their voices are reflected in our work.
Those who intimidate and attack labor leaders, labor organizations and those working on labor rights will be held accountable. Workers in different countries of the world are protesting their demands. However, force is not used to suppress the movement everywhere.
The US Secretary of State also announced five action plans to proactively consolidate and advance workers’ rights worldwide. The plan of action includes: The United States will work with governments, workers, labor organizations, trade unions, civil society, and the private sector around the world to protect internationally recognized labor rights. As part of this, US ambassadors and embassies around the world will engage with workers and labor unions to ensure that their voices are reflected in US work.
Second, those who threaten, intimidate workers, attack labor union leaders, labor rights activists, labor organizations-will be subject to sanctions, trade embargoes, and visa embargoes.
Third, the ability of the U.S. federal government to improve the rights of workers abroad will be enhanced by prioritizing increasing job opportunities for skilled workers. This will involve training US officials on workers’ rights so they can identify and prevent labor rights violations.
Fourth, the United States will work with governments and multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and the G20 to improve labor rights and labor standards.
Fifth, US efforts to ensure the protection of workers in its own trade agreements and supply chain will be increased. At the same time, the United States will stop importing clothing manufactured using forced labor.
In addition, the US move to ensure workers’ right to organize will create a space for workers’ views to be weighted, the statement said. The statement outlines five other US action plans to protect labor rights. These are-
Use diplomacy, economic participation and foreign aid to protect internationally recognized labor rights, empower workers and ensure the right to organize.
Promptly and effectively address and prevent threats, intimidation and violence against trade union leaders, labor rights activists and trade unions.
Strengthening the capacity of federal departments and agencies to manage the global labor agenda. Working with and forming alliances with multinational organizations to promote global labor standards, labor organization and internationally recognized labor rights. Apart from this, increasing trade and other means to protect and develop internationally recognized labor rights.
If any sanction may be imposed on Bangladesh which would be cost a lot including the ban on exports of readymade garments, imports of foodgrains, fuel oil, capital machinery and raw materials, ban on army, police and para-military forces to the UN peacekeeping missions, restrictions on the overseas labour market and remittance inflow, etc. If the sanction imposes by US, which will be co-shared by Canada, European Union and Nato member states.
If really the restrictions imposed, then Bangladeshis will have to face lots of pain, which will be the lone responsibility of Bangladesh Awami League and Sheikh Hasina.
Industrial wants PM’s intervention
Two foreign organizations, ILO and Geneva-based International Labor Organization Industrialol, have stated that the minimum wage of Tk 12,500 is not sufficient for the workers in Bangladesh’s garment sector. The two organizations have sought the intervention of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to further fix the wages of garment workers. All this was said in two separate statements given by the two organizations.
In a statement issued by the steering committee of the Geneva-based international labor organization Industrialall, they are concerned about the torture of garment workers in Bangladesh over the wage issue and the death of four workers. Apart from this, the leaders of the organization demanded the immediate release of the arrested workers and labor leaders. Referring to the fact that trade union is not a crime, Industrialall has said that the workers and labor leaders who recently protested around the wage issue have been blacklisted. Such actions are strongly condemned.
According to Industrialall, 4 garment workers were killed and 1000 workers were injured in the last few days of labor unrest in Bangladesh. Proper investigation of the death of workers and proper compensation should be given to the families of the deceased workers. Apart from this, better treatment should be provided to those who are injured. Apart from this, the factories which have been closed should be opened quickly and the declaration by the owners that the workers will not get wages for the days that the factories remain closed should be withdrawn. So that workers get full wages.
ILO calls for fair wage
Meanwhile, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said in another statement that the wages of workers in Bangladesh should be determined on the basis of fairness. The organization emphasizes transparency, fairness and evidence-based minimum wage determination process to ensure fair wages for Bangladesh’s export-oriented garment workers.
In a statement, the ILO said there was growing concern over wage protests and violence in the garment sector. The agency called on all parties to remain calm and restrained to avoid further loss of life and loss of livelihood.
“We strongly encourage all parties concerned to engage in constructive dialogue and negotiations to reach a consensus on the minimum wage,” the statement said. This will ensure the quality of life of the workers as well as the sustainability of the business of the garment sector.”
Touhidur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Apparel Workers Federation, said in the light of the time, the concerns expressed by foreign organizations about the wage issue are justified. However, the warning given by the United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is an ominous sign for Bangladesh. If the United States imposes a trade ban on Bangladesh on the issue of labor rights or stops taking the garment industry from Bangladesh, it will cause a great loss to the country and the industry.
Frustrated industry owners
Despite the 65% increase in wages, the country’s industrial entrepreneurs are disappointed by such threats from foreign companies including the United States.
In this regard, the Executive President of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh, Mohammad Hatim, said in the light of time, “more than 65 percent of wages have been increased at one time. Still the workers protested and vandalized the factory. On the other hand, foreign organizations are threatening and giving lies. We are very disappointed. I think foreign organizations including the United States are making such threats without knowing the correct information. We call upon them to know the correct information and then assess the overall situation.
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